A Sunny January Day at the Nakashima Barn

Situated at the northern end of the Centennial Trail, the old red barn of the Nakashima dairy greets you, as you pull in the drive, standing sentry to the entrance and to the memory of its past.

The Nakashima family lived and worked this land for almost 30 years, and raising their 11 children here. They were among the earliest Japanese settlers to farm in Snohomish County, Operating it as a dairy farm, bringing the first registered Guernsey cattle to this area, until 1942 and WWII. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, ordering approximately 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry into internment camps, the Nakashima family was among them. The farm was sold and changed hands several times until it was sold into a Trust for Public Land in 1997, upon which it became maintained by Snohomish County for use as a park. It later became part of the Heritage Barn Registry.

As you walk across the path, past the dedicated marker establishing the park in 2012, there is a small footbridge to carry you over Tributary 80, a serene little stream that meanders through the open fields, once dairy pasture to the herd of Guernsey cows. Closing your eyes, you might find yourself cast back to those days, hearing the soft lull of the cattle’s moo. Perhaps even the sweet smell of hay hits your nostrils, carried by the breeze.

The trail takes you past these pasture lands, slowly giving way to marshes and Birch groves. On this late, winter morning the Birch tree branches are bare but in a few short weeks a chorus of frogs song will usher in Spring to these wetlands and new buds will appear on bushes and trees. These are native growth protection areas, home to a wide array of wild life from frogs and herons in the marshlands to deer, coyote, and bear calling the woodlands home. There are signs at the trailhead as gentle reminders that this is their home and we must respect it, keeping it clean and free of garbage. Just in case we had forgotten.

On this crisp, weekday morning, I begin the first half of my walk in solitude, only the song if the chick-a-Dee-Dee-Dee accompanies me. I walk for three quarters of a mile before I encounter a local couple out walking their dog, a very gregarious Spaniel. I continue my course for about another mile, staying on the paved path built for walkers, joggers, and cyclists, before I turn back. There is a horse trail that runs parallel to the path I am walking. It is now an hour later in the day, almost midday, and the trail is becoming more active. I pass two other walkers and a serious yet curteous  cyclist, calling out “on your left” as he whizzed past me. This curtesy, the gentle head nod, and “hello” or “good morning” leaves me with a renewed hope of civility and humanity as I leave this park. I will carry this uplifted feeling with me through my day and gift it to others. I will pay forward the beauty I found here today.

And 75 years after the Nakashima family left this farmland, I whisper a soft “thank you” to honor their stewardship.

The barn is open from 7am to dusk everyday and makes a lovely walk with a friend, serene place to jog or bike, and family friendly with benches and rest areas near the barn. There are a few smaller, side trails off the main paved trail if you would rather explore the path less taken.

written by MaryRose Denton